Monday, September 26, 2016

What Would Our World Look Like Today If Walt Had More Time

By Brittany Bell

Walter Elias Disney was an innovator. He made his dreams become a reality, and sought to bring new entertainment experiences to the world. He also strived to create a better, more connected world, an idea which he materialized in his plans for E.P.C.O.T.: the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. If one were to visit Epcot today, some of Walt’s original ideas still are alive and well. In addition, one quick ride on the Magic Kingdom's PeopleMover will give guests a glimpse at Walt’s model for his groundbreaking idea for the future of our cities—a model that is only a fraction of his entire dream. However, Walt’s untimely death halted, and almost lost, all plans for his EPCOT City, with the idea only coming back to the table in the late 70s when construction on EPCOT Center began. With all of the new ideas and innovation planned for EPCOT City, one can’t help but wonder what the world would look like today if Walt had lived another ten or twenty years. Join us in today's new article as we journey into a dream of the future: one in which Walt Disney’s E.P.C.O.T. became a reality and the effects it would have on our world today…

To get a solid idea of what Walt was planning for his community of the future, what better way to introduce the idea than straight from the man who imagined it himself…

As Walt says, his idea “will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are emerging from the forefront of American industry. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed. It will always be showcasing and testing and demonstrating new materials and new systems.” And, although Walt’s original plan did include an idea for a theme park, its heart and soul was to create an interconnected community, the ideal place to live, work, and play.

Walt filming his introduction to the EPCOT film - 1966

To start, one of the biggest ideas stemming from EPCOT is the idea of a PeopleMover. Imagine the city of Boston with a monorail-like transportation system. Instead of the MBTA, Bostonians would travel to and from work on a noiseless, eco-friendly train that would be efficient in both time and fuel consumption.

Today, we have the monorail systems at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort to look to for ideas of what this would be like in our cities, and needless to say, it would be amazing. In addition, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover also comes from Walt’s original idea. Once again, this virtually noiseless ride system would be an improvement on almost every major city’s transportation system.

E.P.C.O.T. City model showing PeopleMover

Along the PeopleMover routes would be residential housing areas that would no longer be obstructed by the noisy, unsightly transportation systems of cities today. These residential communities would all have access to the PeopleMover, which would transport them all over the city, with the main destination being the city center. Imagine a city like the Magic Kingdom Resort area: instead of a Monorail line, the Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian are each of the communities on the PeopleMover line, and the Magic Kingdom is city center. This would be the reality of cities in America—connected, close-knit, and working towards tomorrow.

City center would be a commerce mecca. In some of the early concept art, there was to be an International Shopping Center, in which nationalities from around the world can represent their country with foods, clothing, and other items that showcase their customs and traditions. In addition, this metro-area would be home to offices, apartment buildings, and the PeopleMover central station. This area would combine many of the aspects seen in the Walt Disney Company today—Disney Springs, the Transportation and Ticket Center, and the Disney offices in Burbank, California. The concept art below gives an explanation as to how this all would work, along with sketches of some of the shopping areas that were to be in the International Shopping Center. Much like cities today, these areas would be home to diversity, culture, and discovery. However, they would be more idealized: cleaner, safer, and friendlier to all people from around the world.

The center-piece of the entire city was to be the Cosmopolitan Hotel. This futuristic-loping structure was to tower above the community and provide, as Imagineers say, a "weenie" for the city. Much like some of the skyscrapers that line cities in America today, this glimmering tower would be a representation of the tremendous heights that the human mind can achieve; there is no limit to innovation as long as their are thoughts and dreams and doers to make those dreams a reality. The closest representation to this in the Disney Parks today would be the castles in each of the Disneyland-style parks; they represent imagination and possibility and idealize the human spirit.

Though there are endless possibilities of what our world would look like today if Walt had lived long enough to make his dream of E.P.C.O.T. a reality, one can’t help but point out some of the similarities and progress our world is making. Cities are beginning initiatives to go green, invest in technology, and prepare for the possibilities of the future (since I mentioned Boston earlier, GoBoston2030 is an interesting example of some of these programs). And although Walt is gone, his ideas still live on today, and his spirit is very much alive. Like Walt imagined, the opportunities of the future are endless, and with imagination and innovation, our world may achieve a community like E.P.C.O.T., the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. 


Brittany Bell grew up in Lewiston, Maine, about 45 minutes away from Portland. She is currently studying Public Relations and Journalism at Boston University, and hopes to one day work for the Mouse himself. She grew up in a Disney-loving home, and would watch Sleeping Beauty on repeat as a little girl. Her first trip to Walt Disney World was in the summer of 2000, at four years old. Ever since then, Brittany and her family take annual trips to the World, and have no intention of vacationing anywhere else. Her favorite places in Walt Disney World are the Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Grand Floridian, and the Magic Kingdom. She can’t go without seeing Fantasmic! at least once each vacation, even though she chokes up a little at the final scene. Brittany is fascinated by how one man’s dream became an empire—one that makes dreams come true every day.

Before she became obsessed with Frozen and Queen Elsa, her favorite Disney characters were Princess Aurora and Mulan. She loves everything and anything Disney, from the parks, to the movies, to the Broadway musicals. In the near future she hopes to participate in the Disney College Program and work as a “friend of a princess”.

You can find all of Brittany's articles here.

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